Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!

On a normal Monday I discuss the covers of books I'm reading, but the book I started is a romance. Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins won't scare anyone, but look for a review to be posted on Friday!!! In the meantime ....

Most people are putting up posts about the scariest books and movies. I thought, "Should I do that too?" I like scary movies but most of the time when Halloween rolls around I think of .....

Yes, I tend to prefer the funny side of Halloween. How about everyone else? In the meantime enjoy some of my favorite funny Halloween moments.

No Halloween is complete without Roseanne!!

Modern Family is no slouch in the Halloween department either!

In the meantime, enjoy the one day of the year you can justify eating your weight in candy!! I know I will!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A few questions for Mitchell Maxwell

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Little Did I Know by Mitchell Maxwell. Today he is back for a little Q&A session:

·         What is your daily routine as a writer?   I think about what I am going to write throughout the day so when I sit in front of the computer the words have been pre-written in my head.

·         What inspired you to write your first book?  A need to revisit joy and spontaneity and lose cynicism

·         If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? Yes but I can only tell you after you have read the novel otherwise it will give too much away

·         What is your favorite part of the writing process?  Surprise as to where my characters go how they react  to situations and how they grow in ways I never imagined.  I also like to find new words to say things in a fresh fashion.

·         As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  I baseball star but I couldn’t hit a curveball.  To follow my passions.  To leave my fingerprint on the planet.  To listen and to change lives.  Offer help put my beliefs ahead of my wants.  To succeed.  To find respect rather than be liked –if I had to choose.  To find a few special persons who believed in me and not disappoint them.   Be me but with a little less angst, perhaps more hair and a bigger savings account

·         How much, and what kinds of, research went into creating this novel?  Very little, dates, exact names a bit of history but this book is my early coming of age days and was inspired by truths so my research was to revisit memory

·         Is there a specific element in your writing that you find most challenging?  To say things to the reader that I find of value without sounding didactic.  To keep things fresh and humorous and descriptive.  I am not writing about big things but it is the little things that make each life special and memorable.  I hope my readers will remember something a character said and use it in their journey.  That would be special.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My take on: Wherever You Go

It took me a little while to see where the characters were going with this book. But eventually I got it. The lives of three Israeli Americans with seemingly no connection in Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant have more in common than they know. In some way all three are questioning what they know.

Yona Stern has returned to Jerusalem from New York, in hopes of reuniting with her estranged sister Dena. Yona betrayed her sister in the worst way, sleeping with the love of her life. Dena had her life all mapped out. Finish college and raise children. Dena is the more practical of the two, while Yona questions everything. Yona expresses her emotion, while Dena seemed to be cold. Yona wanted more than a life of domesticity in Jerusalem. The betrayal leads to a 10-year estrangement. Yona punishes herself in the only way she can, by having affairs with married men. She doesn't have to form an emotional attachment to these men because the relationship is only temporary. Is this kind of life fulfilling? What about her future? Everything she has been running from leads back to Jerusalem. Can a relationship with Dena be salvaged? Will Yona finally find what she is looking for?

Dena isn't the same person. She has five children with another on the way. Even when Yona is allowed in Dena's home, she is still ignored. What is the point of this? Why try to forge a relationship with someone who doesn't want it? Dena also had this air of superiority. She is better than Yona because she has a family and is dedicated to creating a Jewish homeland.

Mark Greenglass is on the right track. After dabbling in drugs and a destructive relationship, Mark has become a successful teacher. He has all of this thanks to his faith. But despite all the good he is doing, Mark doesn't feel he measures up in his father's eyes. His mother, who I found to be slightly eccentric, is always there for him. But it is always hard for Mark to get his father's attention. Mark is constantly questioning his faith.

Aaron Blinder is a college dropout. Some people are more interested in his famous father, a writer known for his books on the Jewish experience. Aaron has no plan. He seemed like a follower rather than a leader. He joins a radical sect. What exactly was the goal of this sect? It took me a little while to figure it out. Eventually it became clear. Pick impressionable youth and fill their heads with propaganda. Aaron forms a plan on his own, separate from the group. He thinks he is become a leader. He thinks he is showing initiative, but is in fact part of a master plan. He is a pawn in a larger game. But Aaron is too self-absorbed to realize that.

The three characters come together in a violent way. One moment changes the life of all of them. The last 70-80 pages were thoroughly engrossing. You get a deep sense of the way of life of another culture. I also can't imagine living this way. Aaron feels it's OK to hate an entire race without provocation. An existence bent on finding your enemies is no way to live. Definitely put this one on your reading list.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (W.W. Norton & Company) at the author's request in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Monday, What's on the Cover?

It's been a while since I've done one of these. It's not because I forgot. I've just been busy. I think I'm caught up. Today we're taking a look at the cover of The Lady of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory. I've never read her books, but I do love historical fiction. I figured opportunities to read a book by a big author like Philippa Gregory are rare. (At least it's rare for me!!) You take them when you can. This is the third book in her Cousins' War series, hopefully that won't matter when I read it. A young woman named Jacquetta is accused of witchcraft. I'm sure that's a big no-no. The woman on the cover looks very innocent. She doesn't look like the type to be a witch. A review will be posted soon!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My take on: Say Not What if

Clocking in at a scant 51 pages, Say Not What if by Andrew Friedman is a worthy read. A condemned man on death row is forced to exam himself.

Normally, I stick to straight fiction, but it's good to break the mold every so often. The story is basically a long poem. A man finds out he is dying and the only way to prolong his life is to kill a child. The gods of fate have given him an impossible choice. Would any of us do that even if it means more time on earth? This man wants to live. He wants to have more time. But being faced with this choice, he spent all his time working. As a result he lost his family. When he had the time he didn't use it wisely, only now faced with death is he concerned with time.

He picks a poor child -- a little girl who he thinks no one will miss. How wrong. A child will always be missed. A child represents innocence, youth, and a world of opportunity at their fingertips. But this man could not be concerned. He killed the child, and now he gets to live. His own mortality is all that counts. Of course he gets caught, but even then he feels somewhat invincible. Fate will get him out of this. Fate made him do this. Fate will get him out of this. Fate didn't make him do this because ultimately he had a choice.

He is eventually convicted and sentenced to death. He tries to make a deal with fate again. Is fate in the mood? What has changed? He got his wish. He is no longer ill. Or perhaps he should have just accepted fate to begin with. Just take the hand that fate has given you. Use the time wisely, and then he can truly enjoy life. With each page, I kept wanting more. Wanting to find out how this man's life will turn out. It won't take you long to read, so pick it up.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My take on: Alison Wonderland

It's not often that a book leaves me stumped. One or two books have, and now I have to include Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith. I'm not sure what I just read. The description on the back of the book seems totally different from what's inside.

London-based Alison Temple hires an all-female detective agency to follow her husband. She suspects he's cheating, but doesn't want to leave without proof.

"I didn't want to leave him over a suspicion, but I didn't want to stay. I waited for a sign, something that would settle the matter for me."

She has the feeling that something is wrong, but without concrete proof is it right for Alison to leave? When she finally gets the proof, Alison makes sure to cut her ties in a rather obscene way. She paints a little message on her wedding dress. I can't repeat the message, but I found it rather FUNNY. Maybe not everyone will find it funny, but to each his own. Alison decides to work for the Fitzgerald Bureau of Investigation -- the agency that investigated her husband. Instead of Alison Temple, she is now Alison Wonderland. She's no longer waiting for Mr. Wonderful, but she has no problem taking his name. Her boss, Mrs. Fitzgerald, has a father eccentric brother Clive. Mix all those elements together, and you have what sounded like a great concept to me. The opportunities for hilarity should be plenty.

But a few chapters in I was kind of wondering, "What am I reading?" The first few cases seem very normal, but then they drift into the bizarre. Alison befriends the wacky Taron, who hires her to find out where babies are abandoned. I thought, "HUH?!?!?!" Taron sounded like a baby snatcher in the making. Run away Alison, run away !!!

Project Brown Dog -- a new top-secret case at the agency threatens everything. I'm not sure if I understood everything about the case, but this is what I took from. A company is doing illegal testing on animals, and Alison is trying to figure out why. A misunderstanding leads to this company digging up dirt on Taron's friends instead of Alison.

Sometimes it seemed like there were two books going on instead of one. On the one hand you have this complicated case, and then you have Taron and Alison going a Thelma and Louise-type trip. Except that trip lacked the murder and cops hot on their tail. Their friendship is funny and quirky at the same time. Overall, I had a hard time keeping up with the plot. Perhaps I don't read enough books by British authors. I've read two or three, and there have been times when I just don't get their sense of humor. In time I'm sure I could.

Rating: I'm in between on this one. It wasn't all bad, but it just wasn't for me. So I have to go off track with normal rating system and call it: Eccentric!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author's publicist (Little Bird Publicity) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My take on: Picture of Lies

Despite what Goodreads says, I did read Picture of Lies by C.C. Harrison. For some reason this book isn't listed there. But I digress. I leaped at the chance to read this one because it was a mystery. I'm a sucker for a good mystery. This one had what I thought were good elements. Missing children and the desperate families who try to find them.

Keegan Thomas has made a career of writing about the families of kidnapped children. Keegan has a unique understanding of these families. Her own daughter Daisy was kidnapped two years ago. Keegan doesn't see how immersing herself in this work is destroying her personal life. Writing about these children has become Keegan's life and reason for being. When she finally decides to take a break, Keegan is drawn back in. Everything she's trying to runaway from follows Keegan.

The discovery of an old photo of Keegan's grandfather leads her to Monument Valley in the heart of the Navajo Reservation. With the photo, Keegan thinks she has a nice light-hearted story on her hands. Her doctor grandfather, some children and other adults smiling against the backdrop of Monument Valley. What could be the harm in asking a few questions. The picture seems benign, but a wall goes up the instant Keegan starts asking questions. The people on the reservation stick together. The white woman in town asking questions isn't worth their time. A young girl in the picture was taken by missionaries, allegedly to a school off the reservation. To those in town, Keegan is just like those missionaries -- a white person trying to mess things up.

Their are few friends in town for Keegan, except for Jilly a local teacher. Jilly's family is at the heart of the picture, but some of them are reluctant to help. When they do help the results are deadly. Keegan's own life is put in jeopardy during the investigation. Dante, a mysterious archaeologist, at first treats Keegan like she has the plague. But eventually friendship and love grows between them.

As a character, Keegan is resourceful and confident. Despite the challenges thrown at her, Keegan keeps going. If she can find this lost Navajo girl, it can bring Keegan closure in her own life. Overall, I felt there were too many moving parts in this book. Too many elements. The town doesn't like Keegan, several people (too many in my opinion) are involved in the cover up, Dante has his own past that he's running from and the kidnapping of Keegan's daughter. I just felt like there was too much going to make this one standout for me.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author C.C. Harrison as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chapter Hunt and review of Little Did I Know

Here is a little snippet of Little Did I Know by Mitchell Maxwell:

I waited a beat and then confessed, “More than ten and less than five hundred.”
            She laughed. “You are absolutely disgusting.” She paused. “You never kissed me. Even after all these years.”
            “I was saving the best for last.”
            Caught up in the moment, I leaped from my chair into her arms and kissed her like I was off to war.  She lay still in my embrace as if she was being ravaged. She then rolled over, took a deep, sated breath and said, “I need a cigarette.”

 Intrigued? Want to know more? The next little snippet will come from A Book Blogger's Diary, hop on over!!!

Now, what did I think of Little Did I Know by Mitchell Maxwell ? I have been to two or three Broadway plays in my life. After reading this book, I have a greater admiration for the work that goes on behind the scenes. Samuel "Sam" August has just graduated from college in 1976, and now he and his friends are left to wonder what next. Sam has always been the best at sports, but his heart has always been in the theater. How does he make his dream of becoming a big-time theater producer come true? He finds himself in the small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

It's a town where everybody knows everybody. A town controlled by one man, Dr. Barrows. As the odd man out in town, one would think Sam would be intimidated. But after a while he seems to have no fear. Dr. Barrows' foundation has control of a theater, the Priscilla Beach Theatre, but feels compelled to make Sam beg for it. His wife Lizzy has other ideas on how to help Sam rent the theater for the summer. I was sure Sam would give into Lizzy, and compromise his morals. Fortunately, Sam remains true to himself. Whatever comes in his way, Sam finds a way to persevere. When his initial financing fell through, Sam found another way. The graciousness of a dear friend, Secunda, and several other investors come through.

His only friend in town seems to be Veronica, the front desk girl at the local motel. Their attracted to each other, but Veronica is doubtful as to where their relationship can go. Sam is here temporarily, why bother to invest in him? To me it seemed like the town or Dr. Barrows himself was holding something over Veronica. She certainly doesn't like Lizzy Barrows. Veronica and Sam find a way together, and it's very sweet. It's like they've known each other a lot longer than a few weeks.

When all the actors, musicians, and dancers are finally hired, the obstacles aren't over. Some extremely funny (a gang of rabid raccoons) and some that will make you downright mad (corrupt officials, and the sudden loss of electricity). I got a good sense of what it takes just to put on a small-town theater production. Actors form little cliques. Sex, drugs, and alcohol are free flowing, as long as the quality of the work doesn't go down. Sam spends hours and hours picking the right people, then he wonders when to push them and how much. Does he risk losing his actors? Or will it motivate them? Has success gone to their heads?

I have to wonder if the author is a big sports fan. There are a lot of sports references and sports metaphors. They are some that are relevant (Mickey Mantle), but sometimes I think the book gets bogged down with sports metaphors. Aside from that, this is a good coming of age story. Sam has a dream, and doesn't fold when others try to take him down. What I got out of this book was dream big and don't give up.

Rating: Give it a try

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the author's publicist (Meryl L. Moss Media Relations Inc.) in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Welcome Kim Kircher

Here are a few questions I had for Kim Kircher author of The Next Fifteen Minutes: 

1.     Before you husband's health problems, were you living life in small increments of time? This was a technique I used only at work. Since my husband knew he would need a liver transplant someday, he approached life with a bucket list, wanting to check off as many items as possible before he got sick. Our life became a little manic. I am a planner, so I would look far into the future, trying to orchestrate our path. When our plans derailed, I realized that life happens only in the present moment. Whether trying to "get through" an ordeal or experience all that life has to offer, it all happens in small increments of time.

2. After everything, have you or will you change how you got about life? Yes. For one thing, our marriage is very strong. We are each other's biggest advocates, and knowing that my husband has my back gives me confidence and strength. We also practice gratitude. Several times a day I remind myself what I'm grateful for. It has become a dinnertime ritual for our family to verbally acknowledge our gratitude for the little events of the day. It's easy to slip back into old patterns, but life constantly offers reminders to stay in the moment, to be grateful and to grow.  

3. If you weren't a ski patroller, what else could you see yourself doing? Before I patrolled, I was a high school teacher. I've also worked for Outward Bound as an instructor. I enjoy teaching teenagers; their lives are tumultuous and ripe for insight. In writing I hope to touch readers in much the same way, sharing vulnerability and being honest.

4. Are going to continue writing? Do you see yourself writing fiction? If so, what type? Yes. I enjoy writing articles and have been freelancing for the past few years for skiing and outdoor magazines. My blog is growing, and I enjoy that kind of short, fast assignment. I also enjoy longer work. I'm currently working on a novel that takes place at a ski area.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My take on: Manual for Living

Everyone once in a while a reader must step out of their comfort zone. Sometimes you need a break from all the fiction, and go back to reality. I was connected by Seth David Chernoff about his book Manual for Living: A User's Guide to the Meaning of Life. Chernoff is a two-time cancer survivor, author, and speaker. Each chapter asks a series of questions, asking why we do what we do. How does it impact your life?

There are several questions that rang home for me, specifically the chapter on judgment. Think about it, every day we walk down the street we see people and we judge them. Just yesterday I was in the parking lot at the supermarket and saw a man putting groceries in his trunk. But the thing is, I didn't just see a man putting groceries in his car. I saw a severely overweight man putting cases of soda in his trunk. I am by no means skinny, but I thought he doesn't need all that soda. Why couldn't I just see someone putting groceries in their car? It brought me back to a chapter in this book. Actually, a sentence in particular, "'s challenging not be judgmental." How right he is. I don't set out to be that way, but it's just soooooooooooooooo hard not to be that way. Perhaps this book will help me with that.

There are several nuggets of wisdom in the book. It's hard to pull yourself away from someone who is toxic. Self-esteem takes a lifetime to create, but it can be destroyed so easily. Why do we always have to be right? Being right all the time doesn't make you wise. This is another character flaw of mine. I have to know I'm right, and drive home the point that I'm right before the conversation can end. Anyone else have this problem? There are some portions of the book that don't apply to me (**yet fingers crossed**). The chapters dealing with children, relationships, and marriage just don't resonate with me. No relationship, no children (yet) for me. But for those of who you are lucky enough to have both, those chapters are for you.

I guess you need an open mind to take this kind of material to heart. I don't know if I was completely open, but the book was helpful in getting me to think differently. With short chapters and real-life scenarios it can help others do the same.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author Seth David Chernoff in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

This Beautiful LIfe: DNF

This doesn't happen often, but I didn't finish a book. There have been books I didn't like (Stiltsville), but I finished them. I could not finish This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. I tried. I made it halfway through the book. I felt like I was forcing myself to finish. There was no anticipation for me. There was no racing to find out the ending. I reached a point where I just didn't care.

The premise was good: what happens when teenagers engage in sexting? A young girl e-mails a graphic video of herself to Jake, a teenage boy at her school. It was only meant for Jake, but the teenage mind doesn't think too far ahead. He e-mails it to a friend, then that friend passes it on to another. Get the picture? By the next day the video has gone viral. Everyone at school, including the teachers, knows about it. Who is to blame for this? The kids? The parents? My problem with the book is that no one looks in the mirror when assessing blame. The kids and the parents are to blame. The kids for not thinking, and the parents for not instilling better values. Jake's mother puts all the blame on the girl. She doesn't even consider her son's part. Perhaps that caveat was solved in the latter half of the book, but as I said I didn't care. I was becoming bored.

The narration jumped between characters. It starts off with Jake's mother, Liz, then his father, Richard. Liz is caught up in the mommy cliques. Richard is all business. He's more worried how Jake's problem will impact his reputation and job. By the time Jake took over narration, I could care less. I kept waiting for something to interest me, but there wasn't. Anyone else read this one? I see all these wonderful comments on the back of the book, and I think did we read the same book?

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Monday, what's on the cover? (Distracted reader edition)

I didn't do one of these last because I wanted all of the attention on Banned Books Week. OK, lets get to the good stuff. What new books am I reading this week?

I have a copy of The Shattering by Karen Healey thanks to Faye from Little, Brown. I'm not sure whether or not to take that cover literally. What is this girl on the cover so shattered about? A peek at the book flap gives me a clue. The deaths of three young men have been ruled a suicide, but their sisters believe otherwise. They band together to find out the truth. Sounds pretty deep for a Young Adult novel. Lets see what happens.

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant was brought to my attention by TLC Book Tours, but at the time I couldn't take part in the tour. I did put the book on my list, I figured one day I'll get to it. Things have a funny way of working themselves out. The author contacted me. Fortunately, I didn't have to put myself on a strict time schedule. The story is sent in Jerusalem. A woman travels there from New York to make amends with her sister. Everything on the cover seems so far away. A closer look and you can see an explosion on the cover. Could be a chance to learn a few things.

Now you might be asking why did I call this the distracted reader edition? Take a gander down below......


Yes, the arrival of fall TV has left me a bit distracted. Of course some of these shows have been on for several weeks, but there's even more during the fall season. Modern Family leaves me in stitches constantly. Three weeks in, I'm not sure what to make of Sarah Michelle Gellar's show Ringer. I'm not sure how this series can be sustained long term. I'm sad Desperate Housewives is coming to an end. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit just isn't the same without Chris Meloni. Sometimes I swear I'm going to give up the Real Housewives of New Jersey, but I get pulled back in all the time. I will never give up on Project Runway as long as Tim Gunn is on the show. I just discovered Chopped, and it makes my cooking skills feel so inadequate. And, finally The Good Wife. Julianna Margulies kicks ass on this show!! 

I have a DVR, but it gets quite full. I turn my attention to reading, and then I realize the DVR is filling up. Perhaps, if I gave up TV completely things would be a little different. But that's not happening any time soon. Hopefully, I get a daytime job soon and then my reading hours will change. How do the rest of you find a good balance?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My take on: Before I Go To Sleep

It took me more than a month to finish Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. Not because it's a bad book, it's an AWESOME book. I just made the mistake of turning my attention to other books. When I finally focused on this one, I was in awe of the imagination of S.J. Watson.

A horrible accident has robbed Christine Lucas of her memory. Every day she looks in the mirror there is a stranger staring back at her. Who is she? How old is she? Did she just suddenly appear one day?  Every day she must fill in the past of the days before. Her journal helps fill in the gaps because by morning everything Christine has learned will be gone. In addition to her journal, all Christine has to rely on are her husband Ben and Dr. Nash. Both men care deeply for Christine, but she constantly has doubts about them. I did, too.

Her own writing tells her not to trust Ben. But is that the paranoia speaking or is it genuine? This man lives and breathes for Christine. Every day he suffers through the pain of his wife's illness. Isn't that love? Who would stay through that? It's torture every day. It isn't much better for Christine. She is an adult, but sometimes feels like a child playing dress up. Dr. Nash meets with Christine frequently to work on her memory. He takes her to her former home, hoping to jog her memory. It does, but retaining the memory is the problem. She can remember fragments of her past, like parties with her friend Claire and some intimate moments with her husband. The fragments don't add up to a lot. They only serve to deepen Christine's despair.

While Ben comes across as a doting husband, there are moments when I joined in Christine's paranoia. When Christine asks for details from their past, Ben isn't very descriptive. He drops little nuggets, but never the full truth. Ben tells Christine she was hit by a car, but never gives her details about the accident. Is it his form of protection? How much can he tell Christine without upsetting her? Does he even want her to remember? Or is Ben content to have Christine dependent on him? Those little details just aren't enough. Christine needs more. In order to move forward, she needs to know about the past. I'm so tempted to give away more of the book, but I won't. But I will say that Ben's lies start to catch up with him.

Memories shape who we are, if those are taken away what do we have left? What if your sanity was tested every time you woke up? I didn't see the ending coming, but thinking back the clues behind the mystery were there. The last 70-80 pages were so creepy, I was starting to speed read just so I could get to the end. The story starts out very benign. Watson slowly builds the suspense. By the middle of the book, you're hooked. I hear the movie rights have been sold. Before I Go To Sleep was an AWESOME book, and I'm sure it will be an AWESOME movie.

Rating: O.M.G.!!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review.